Culinary Incubator and Event Space Planned for West Baltimore Street in Union Square

| July 1, 2021 | 0 Comments

Siblings Ashley and Kenneth Watson are planning a culinary incubator and event space at 1411 W. Baltimore St. in Union Square/Franklin Square. The Watsons have acquired the vacant three-story, 4,500 sq. ft. building and will be completing a $350,000-renovation. The building will be called Project 1411.

The Watsons started a development company called Greywood named for the street they grew up on in Charlotte, NC. They hope to acquire additional properties in Southwest Baltimore, renovate them, and create spaces where budding entrepreneurs can find a home.

Kenneth Watson, who is an attorney, moved to Washington, D.C. to attend law school at Catholic University. During college he created a meal prep company called Esquire Meals to provide food to fellow students and people in the area. As the business grew, Esquire began doing corporate catering events and supplying meals to homeless shelters and cancer treatment centers. He eventually walked away from practicing law to pursue Esquire full time and during that time moved to Baltimore. After living in Reservoir Hill, he bought a house in Union Square after he was introduced to the area by his realtor.

Kenneth Watson not only loved the rich history of Union Square and Southwest Baltimore, but saw room for growth with real estate inventory in the area. He noticed that while some areas of Baltimore are thriving and “look wonderful,” some areas like Southwest Baltimore have a lack of resources as well as a lack of diverse food and retail offerings.

“Southwest is mostly minority and is one of those products of systematic inequalities,” said Kenneth Watson. “We can do better for the residents of Southwest Baltimore and embrace the diversity.”

Ashley Watson, who is a graduate of Winston Salem State, has worked for the Federal government in Washington, D.C. for the past 15 years. She also started a vegan e-commerce bakery called Dulce Sweet Bar. She wanted to get her business into a brick-and-mortar location and started looking into commercial kitchen space.

“I didn’t see many Black people owning or operating a commercial space,” said Ashley Watson.

So, she thought about starting one herself.

The first floor at Project 1411 will be a commercial kitchen for food entrepreneurs. Esquire Meals and Dulce Sweet Bar will move into the space, along with other member businesses.

The rest of the property will be an event space that can be used by the food entrepreneurs in the building, but also be rented by members of the community. The third floor of Project 1411 will be a staged demo kitchen so members can grow their social media presence with videos and photos in a professional setting.

The Watsons are working on acquiring a vacant lot next door for a courtyard. There will also be a rooftop deck that will be used by the members and for events.

Construction will start in late July and Project 1411 is expected to open in the winter.

Investing on W. Baltimore St., which currently has many vacancies and buildings in disrepair, is “a risk,” according to the Watsons, but they see a lot of potential and think it could one day be like a Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

“Just because people don’t see things happening, doesn’t mean things aren’t happening,” said Kenneth Watson. “So many developers are refining projects and plans and waiting on things to become steady.”

The Watsons are interested in creating more spaces on W. Baltimore St. for entrepreneurs, including those from Project 1411. They are currently eying another property for redevelopment. “We are going to turn this into a retail oasis,” said Kenneth Watson.

Other projects planned for W. Baltimore St. include a proposed redevelopment of the Lord Baltimore Theatre. Meseret Bekele and Samuel Ergete from Washington, D.C. are also renovating three buildings from 1515 to 1519 W. Baltimore St. into an apartment building with a first-floor Ethiopian restaurant.

This was first reported by the Baltimore Business Journal

Renderings from Greywood 

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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